If Aaron Judge passes Roger Maris, some lucky fan might become this generation’s Sal Durante.
As a 19-year-old in 1961, Durante caught Maris’ record-breaking 61st home run. The story of what followed — Durante sold the ball for $5,000, and it was returned to Maris as part of the deal — sounds downright quaint by today’s standards. But it’s a reminder that, even six decades ago, fans who caught famous souvenirs faced a tricky choice: keep the ball, sell it, or give it back to the player who hit it?
With Judge now one away from tying Maris’ American League record, anyone who comes up with one of his home run balls could end up with a similar decision to make.
“I’d give it back. Not even a second guess,” said Kevin Heathwood, a 35-year-old teacher from Harlem who was at Wednesday night’s Yankees-Pirates game in New York. “It belongs to Judge and he earned every single thing that he’s gotten. Just being a part of it, that’s enough for me.”
Many fans share Heathwood’s view, feeling that if Judge wants the ball back, it wouldn’t be right for the fan to keep it. After all, it’s Judge’s moment. Fans are there to enjoy it and share in it — but why should a spectator insist on making a huge profit off a souvenir he or she received simply from being in the right place at the right time?
On the other hand, keeping a record-setting ball and selling it could yield a life-changing amount of money, which could mean far more to the fan than the ball does to the player. And besides, if Judge — or any other famous slugger — really wants the ball that badly, presumably he can afford to pay just about any asking price.
“I’m a big Yankee fan, a big Judge fan and I would certainly work with them, but I would not just give the ball away,” said Danny McDonough, a 32-year-old from Levittown,…